Transitioning a Toddler to a BIG Bed

Well, we did it!  Night one down and mama is the only one suffering from the  sleep deprivation associated with such a big transition, the toddler is fine.  Last night Immy slept in a brand new, sparkly, shiny BIG girl bed.  And you know what, overall it went quite well.

When she first went to bed, there were two incidents of getting out of bed and coming out of her room, and probably two more of getting out of bed and having a little play in her room (all within the first half an hour) but a *ahem* gentle reminder from Dad 101 that her cot was still there and she may just have to sleep back in it if she couldn’t go to sleep in her big girl bed, and that was enough to get her settled.  Admittedly, she did wake and get out of bed a little earlier than I had hoped but as the time on the clock started with a ‘6,’ it wasn’t so bad.

Although I realise that one night is just a small step in this particular journey (and therefore I won’t be cracking the champagne with cheers of ‘We did it!’ just yet), I think there were a couple of preparations that we made which have helped this transition;

  • We have been talking about a big girl bed for about three months now.  Immy came shopping to help choose the bed and her own bedspread.  She was prepared and excited (in fact, she wanted to go to bed as soon as possible!) but not so overexcited that it became a problem, I think this is because we had been preparing for so long.
  • We waited.  When I was directing a child care centre, I once had an infant/child sleep specialist tell me that waiting until a child was nearly 3 years of age was a good thing.  Immy turns 3 in a months time and I am glad that we waited as she is that little bit older and can be reasoned with a little more.  We were fortunate that Immy never tried to climb out of her cot (she wore a sleeping bag) and as we did not need it for another baby, we had the luxury of waiting.
  • We have recently been focusing on getting back to basics when settling Immy, to help her be calm, relax and fall asleep.  We have a clear naptime and bedtime routine which we very, very rarely deviate from. Simply because that is what works for us.
  • We left the cot up in her room, and will probably leave it there for the next week, just as a “reminder” that it is there as we attempt to develop the new habits and behaviours necessary to go to sleep in a normal bed.
  • I was worried about Immy rolling out of her bed, so we actually tucked her top sheet in sideways, so that we had more fabric to tuck under the mattress, ensuring that she was securely tucked in.  We also made sure that there were no other items of furniture alongside the bed that she would bang into if she did roll out.

I suppose the biggest hurdle to overcome, is the fact that she can now get out of bed and come out of the room or play in her room (in fact, I have a friend whose four year old boy used to get up at 3am and do puzzles and play games in his room!)  I am hoping that by being calm and consistent and putting her straight back into bed, right from the beginning, that this does not become too much of a problem.  But we’ll see!  Now this mama, who’s love and concern kept her up half the night, is off for a Nanna nap 🙂

What was your experience, moving your child from a cot into a bed?  Any tips, especially for getting them to stay in bed???

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  1. My son started sleeping in a big bed at around 18 months of age because we wanted his cot for his sister that was going to be born four months later. We wanted to move him with plenty of time to spare so that he didn’t feel like his new sibling was “taking” his cot. It all worked well. He’d get out of bed at times – and the first few times we’d explain that he had to stay in bed and rest or sleep and on bad nights when he persisted we’d just pick him up without talking take him back, tuck him in and give him a kiss. He bored of it pretty quick.
    His sister had her cot converted to a bed at around 16 months because he literally started taking it apart. I kid you not – she pulled and jiggled those bars until she worked out how to take them out!!! Can you imagine my shock when she came walking out one day after I’d put her safely in her cot??? OMG! So we put the cot back together and she’d just break out so we just converted it and she’s been happier ever since. Sometimes she gets up when we’d like her to stay put – but hey – that’s life. She has never fallen out of bed and her brother only fell out once or twice without injury. All good.

    1. Oh Sally, you made me laugh with your description of your daughter climbing out of the cot 🙂

  2. We’ve switched our kids at 15 and 18 months. The first, we did it out of necessity. The second we copied the first because it worked so well the first time around. We haven’t had problems either. They got out of bed a time or two but quickly learned to stay in bed. We had a lower bed but both kids rolled out of it half a dozen times. They only woke up maybe one time out of those 6. I can’t decide if we were just lucky or we prepped well. I know we talked about the big boy bed, and we definitely have a bedtime routine so I’m using that. I also think at that age, they are relatively willing to be obedient (at least my kids have been).

  3. Seeing that you are waiting until Immy is nearly 3 has been music to my ears. I think the older the better! The Badoo is 3 in June, so we have plenty of time yet. Cappers was nearing 3 and it was an easy, relaxed process. Maxi was a climber so he was only just 2 and that was a very long road indeed!! Good luck with it all. x

  4. My daughter is 20 months and although not ready for a big bed yet, I’ve been thinking about how this transition will go. When we do, I’m planning on keeping her cot in the room too and preparing her for the move early on. She is still in a sleeping bag at the moment so I’m thinking I might start putting a sheet on her in the cot so she gets used to that aspect of being in a bed.

  5. We moved both our kids into their BIG beds betweent the age of 2 – 2.5yrs. We did the same as you and had them play a big part in picking the bed and getting lovely linens to make their room look special. We went cold turkey and removed the cot straight away and this didn’t cause any problems and I don’t regret it. Miss J got out of bed a few times on her own – just to come and get one more cuddle (or two). Master E never stepped foot out of bed after being put into it. Even today at 4 years old he rarely gets out of bed after getting in. I can’t wait to come for a visit and have Immy show me her BIG bed.

  6. My son will be 20mths when my second is born. I think my husband believes we’ll be using the same cot for the new one but I’m determined to keep him in his cot at least for another year. I had heard/read, like you, that its best to keep babies in their cots for as long as possible. But then so many people do the Big Move a lot sooner with huge success so I guess its up to each family. For me, I’ll be waiting as long as possible. I was pretty much going to follow the same preparations you have followed. I think there may have been one or two there I hadn’t planned at this stage so thanks!

  7. We moved my son to a big bed when he was TOO YOUNG to handle it. It was the worst month of my life. He said he was ready, he was excited, he participated in the process, we did everything right. It failed. His normal asleep-in-10-minute night time routine turned into an hour or two of getting out of bed, crying, fighting with him and sometimes even spanks. We finally broke down and bought another crib (cot?) because his sister was sleeping in his old one. It was magic and he went right back to a normal sleep routine. When we finally moved him out of the crib we just took the side off and left it as a toddler bed for a while before actually buying a big bed. With his sister we just waited a longer time, transitioned to the three-sided crib and then to a regular bed.

    My failure was in listening to so many people saying that their under-2 year old transitioned with no problems. That isn’t always the case. I was skeptical (and rightly so) because I know my kid. He just wasn’t ready.

    Looking back over my six years of parenting the worst times with my kids have been when I’ve tried to have them do something they were not developmentally ready to begin. It’s been my greatest, and most helpful, parenting lesson.

    1. It is amazing that as mature, intelligent women we somehow feel the need to listen to others instead of believing in ourselves and what we truly know about our own children and their development.

  8. Thanks for this great article, and I will include a link in the January 18th issue of Parent News. There is an upcoming teleseminar series, Tune In for Your Parenting Tune Up, that begins on February 8th. Charlotte Reznick, PhD, will be addressing sleep issues on February 17th. She has nine imagination tools that assist children in coping with everyday life, including anxieties about sleep. Tune in for “The Boogeyman and Other Scary Stuff: How to Get Good Sleep and Help Your Children Manage Their Fears”. This is available to your readers in the United States. For more on the other topics, please visit Thanks again. I love reading your posts!

  9. This is just what we need! As soon as we find the right bunks for our little house (He’ll be sleeping on the bottom one till he’s 5 or so according to safety regulations :)) then Will will be in a big bed. I also want to make the transition soon so he doesn’t feel as if the baby is taking his cot when it comes in May. I think it’ll be hardest for me, because he’ll not only move into a big bed, but into his own room, out of ours. 🙁 He’s excited!

  10. My daughter moved to a big bed at 22 months. She enjoyed doing up the room with Daddy, making the bed and moving in, all without to many problems. We had taken the wheels and legs off the bed otherwise she was too short to climb in and out, also we were worried about her falling out.
    That first night we heard a huge clunk in the night and found her flat on the floor – she had fallen out!!
    We had no railings prepared so placed a pillow sideways along the edge of the bed making a barrier of sorts and went back to bed hoping it would work. It works a treat and we still use it, even though she is almost 4 she still tends to move a lot during the night. She calls it the ‘just in case’ pillow as in just in case I’m going to fall out 🙂

  11. Just to add a good news story into the mix, we moved our boy into his big bed recently at two and a half and it’s like he has never worked out that he can get out. He stills calls us when he wants to get up in the morning despite the fact it’s a really low toddler bed.

    We got ourselves all prepared with what we were going to do when he came into our room at night but it has never happened!

  12. My son was about 18 months old. He had asked if he could sleep in the big bed. The next night Daddy took him to bed and he asked again, so he put him in the bed (that’s always been next to his crib) and he’s been sleeping there ever since. We never really not had much trouble with him staying in his bed. I do however remember having to mention putting him in his crib a few times. He does sometimes get out of bed, walk over to his door…wait for a minute then crawl back up into his bed, lay down and cover up. (Gotta love the video monitor!) He’s 30 months now and is really good about going to bed. We even keep a potty in his room that he uses by himself in case he has to go and we can’t make it in there in time to take him. There has always been a potty in his room though since we’ve always EC’d. That’s off subject though! Anyway, he usually falls asleep on a book. If she likes to read or look at books, maybe her favorite book will help! :o)
    Congratulations on the big bed! It’s beautiful! I love you website, it’s fantastic! :o)

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